Manchester United welcome Wolverhampton Wanderers to Old Trafford at 3pm on Saturday as both teams will look for three points, with very contrasting reasons.
While the visitors linger dangerously only a few points above the relegation zone, the hosts badly need the three points to keep up the pace with Manchester City, who are running away at the top of the Premier League table and are the bookies’ favourites with the best football odds to win the title.
The result will be even more important to Sir Alex Ferguson’s side as they will respond appropriately after humiliating bowing out of the UEFA Champions League at the group stage phase. Four wins in their last five league outings suggest it is not time to panic just yet though for the Red Devils.
United’s blistering start to the season has been long forgotten as complacency has seemingly seeped its way into the players in recent weeks. Indeed this school of thought can be bolstered by the fact that the champions have won just one of their last five games, with two of those games being losses. Wednesday night’s defeat to Basel meant that it was also the second competition in the space of seven days that the Old Trafford outfit have been eliminated in by a scoreline of 2-1.
Despite their cup troubles, last season’s Champions League finalists have won four of their last five league matches, the sole blemish being the controversial draw at home to Newcastle United. These results have come on the back of United’s self-destruction in the Manchester derby and things seemed to be looking up after that. However their most recent results, in all competitions, gives reason to worry for the majority of the 76,000 crowd at Old Trafford as the rarity of United struggling will mean an air of apprehension hangs over the red side of Manchester until after the Wolves game.
The 19-time league champions can put their troubles partially down to their injury-strewn squad which only got worse against Basel. Nemanja Vidic’s 4 month absence means he is the 8th first team player to be injured at the moment. However that burden could be lightended slightly if Dimitar Berbatov and the da Silva twins can shake off their knocks.
Tom Cleverley is unlikely to return before Christmas while his midfielder partner, Anderson, is ruled out until the spring at least. Javier Hernandez and Michael Owen won’t be back until the New Year as the 69-year-old manager tinkers with his line-up to ensure his best 11 available are out on the pitch.
Wolves, on the other hand, are extremely fortuitous with their injuries as Jody Craddock and Kevin Foley are their only absentees for their visit to Old Trafford. Mick McCarthy will be fielding his strongest team against as he hopes to build on last weekend’s win over Sunderland. Last season’s corresponding fixture was a very tense affair as a solo strike from Ji-Sung Park in the 93rd minute stole all three points for the hosts in a 2-1 victory. However the last time these two sides locked horns, it was Wolves who won 2-1 with Kevin Doyle grabbing the winners for his team.